Charlottesville continues to attract serious food talent. The latest is Richmond’s Travis Croxton, co-owner of Rappahannock Oyster Co., who has just opened his first Charlottesville restaurant. Rocksalt, as it is called, is at the Shops at Stonefield, where Richie Brandenburg has been assembling an impressive array of restaurants in his role as Director of Culinary Strategy for the Stonefield developer, Edens. Other Rocksalts are planned in Merrifield, VA and Charlotte, NC.
Croxton and his cousin Ryan first splashed onto the food scene in 2004 when they hauled a cooler of their oysters up from Virginia to New York City and were able to obtain a tasting at Le Bernardin, one of the nation’s great seafood restaurants. At the time, Virginia oysters were virtually unknown in the food world, as the once-mighty industry had been decimated. One of the casualties was the Croxtons’ grandfather’s oyster company, which they were determined to restore. Le Bernardin was so impressed that they put the oysters on the menu right away. Since then, Croxton and his cousin have exploded, with a Food & Wine tastemaker award, and highly acclaimed restaurants in Washington D.C. and Richmond, among other achievements.
At Rocksalt, yes there will be plenty of Rappahannock Oysters. But, Croxton says, the cornerstone of the restaurant will be the wood-fire grill, which will showcase the best of the area’s produce. Croxton wants area farmers and producers to be the stars of his restaurant, with lamb from Border Springs, pork from Timbercreek Farm, and produce from Manakintowne Speciality Growers, among others. The local bias extends to drinks as well, particularly beer. With the exception of a stout made with Rappahannock Oysters from Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery, all twenty beers on tap will be from Virginia, with a heavy focus on Charlottesville area breweries.
Manning the kitchen is another transplant, Jesse Fultineer, who was once Executive Chef of Chicago’s N9NE Steakhouse, and whose brother is chef of Rappahannock’s flagship Richmond restaurant. Fultineer’s menu will blend his own inspirations with Rappahannock classics like Barcat Oyster Chowder, Baked Oysters, and Lamb and Clams, a dish with a cult following and a James Beard pedigree. Other items on the opening menu include grilled calamari with lemon, garlic, and peppers; a salad of fried green tomatoes and butter lettuce with house made pickled vegetables and blue cheese dressing; and, from the wood grill, a cider-brined double cut Timerbreek Farm pork chop with tarragon aioli. And, of course, there is a raw bar of oysters, clams, and more.
This week, Rocksalt will open for dinner at 5pm each day, and, starting Saturday, will open at 11 am. Book your table here.